How does your brain decide what to remember?

  1. Why is it that I can remember little unimportant events that happened in my childhood over 20 years ago, but I can't remember what I wore last Monday? I know major events that happened in your life your brain will remember for years, but I can remember one particular day sitting in my elementary school classroom listening to the teacher talk about some uninteresting fact. I cannot remember any other days immediately surrounding this one event. So, I'm a just wondering if any of you science minded folks know how your brain decides which little events to pick out from your past and store permanently in your memory?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. I find your observations very strange. I cannot remember a single mundane thing from my life. All my old memories are tied to emotional situations.

    Very interesting. Perhaps I'm abnormal in this case. Anyone else care to comment?
     
  4. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,127
    Gold Member

    I am with mikemortal. The moments remembered from childhood are seemingly from random points and very spotty.

    mike, I am fairly convinced that certain memories are significant, even of they don't seem to be. Additionally, they are constantly getting reinforced (and edited!) every time you think of them, which is why they persist.
     
  5. Of course, my memories are somewhat random but I can see why I would remember them in each case.

    For example: Getting chased by a vacuum cleaner, my old dog biting my hand through a handpuppet, getting a question right in class that nobody else could get the answer to.

    Each a rather random example of excitement, pain and pride, respectively.

    Are you sure there's no emotional connection? I really can't remember anything that has no obvious reason to remember it.
     
  6. squeaky wheel gets the grease- the neural connections that get reinforced into hardwired long-term memory are the ones that continue to be the most active over time- if you remember something from 20 years ago it means that whatever the event was cause some signal patterns between neurons that where reactivated several times- such as in dreams or thinking about the event at the time- analyzing it- just enough of the right kind of thinking and remembering and perhaps your body's chemistry at the time allowed the memory to become a stronger hardwired pattern that could easily be reactivated in the long term future
     
  7. I remember all kinds of unimportant things from childhood and later. Though I'm only twenty, I don't see how I could forget all the distinct memories from childhood. I remember the parts that were emotionally intriguing and others that had no relevence to anything. It is funny because like someone else said it appears to be spotty. I remember thousands of things from childhood but only remember at that instant. For example, once I hit a home run and that is the only thing I remember. I don't remember before it or after it. By the way, I have hit more then one homerun. :)
     
  8. I read somewhere that there is a major corralation between events remembered and amount of adrenalin released at that time. For example, the 3 seconds of the drop on the roller coaster in comparison to the 2 hour wait in line took to get there. But, as stated before, there is quite a bit of adrenalin in emotional events (fight or flight), so I could also see that being logical.... And I wish could regurgitate the source of this idea, but i do not remember, must not have been to exciting......
     
  9.  
  10. If I remember correctly, the brain basically remembers everything, but the recalling process is affected by the significance of the event in your life. That's why events that affect your emotionally are easier to recall.
     
  11. I'm not that sure about the brain basically remembers everything because even though I have tried very hard to remember significant events in my life i haven't been able to. It must be something else.
     
  12. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I believe that all memories are stored but that ones tied to strong emotions are usually recalled more frequently and therefor easier to recall. I can recall a lot of insignificant things from the past, many I had completely forgotten. The easiest way to do it is to recall something with more significance and then look around at what else happened at that time, it's like flipping through a photo album with all photos in chronological order, you can flip back and forth. If you focus on a picture, a lot of times you can play the video and see everything as it happened, it's very cool. At least that is how my memory works.

    Don't you ever just let your mind wander back and you start seeing flashes of all kinds of insignificant things? At first they are just snippets, but the more you focus on a snippet, the clearer it gets.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2007
  13. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

     
  14. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,127
    Gold Member

    Can't? Or won't? :rolleyes:

    Hypnotism only works on those who believe it will work.
     
  15. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I agree.

    I actually wanted to be hypnotized to see what it was like and the guy was supposedly the top US clinical psychologist that did hypnotism and supposedly had never failed to hynotize anyone. I was his first failure.

    My take on hypnosis is that at best it's a relaxation technique.
     
  16. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,265
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Don't do it. You are pretty much guaranteed to come away with a distorted take on what happened. It's surprisingly easy for false memories to take root in everyday cognition, and if anything hypnotherapy to recover memories is even worse.
     
  17. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,265
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Perhaps wanting to be hypnotized is necessary for being hypnotized to some degree, but it's not sufficient. Or else we would expect training programs like these to increase hypnotic susceptibility.
     
  18. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,265
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The existing literature on hypnosis makes it seem that hypnosis is related to attentional functioning more than physiological relaxation.

    A couple of things I scrounged up on Pubmed quickly suggest some direct evidence against the view that hypnosis is just relaxation. Hypnosis is possible in an altert state. The effects of alert and relaxation hypnosis can be similar, and both are different from the effects of relaxation training alone.
     
  19. JasonRox

    JasonRox 2,327
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

     
  20. JasonRox

    JasonRox 2,327
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Hypnosis doesn't increase the accuracy of recalling memory. All it does is increase our certainty that we are right although like I said earlier, we could be wrong but become more certain we are right.
     
  21. hypnagogue

    hypnagogue 2,265
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's worse than that. The wrong kind of techniques can actually create novel false memories. See here. I would urge the original poster **NOT** to pursue any hypnosis therapy for the purpose of retrieving old memories.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?